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Unread 03-06-2020, 03:56 PM   #1
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American Christianity's Fatalistic Thinking: Political Ramifications

I'll need one or two of the few heavy-hitters left on this forum to help me out if I'm not framing the topic for discussion correctly.

I want to discuss the fatalistic thinking in some Christian circles and what ramifications that has on the politics of our nation.

Obviously some of the desire to discuss this comes from other threads, but I admit it has been something I've wrestled with for a long time and something I want to learn more about.

In my quick Googling before making this post I came across this article that kind of touches on what I want to talk about, but I don't want the context of the discussion to be framed around gun laws or mass shootings.

Here's a key quote I found in the article that should open the can of worms: "...some evangelicals’ beliefs about the imminence of the second coming and the rapture have helped generate a politics of resignation in the face of real social and political evils." From Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russel Hochschild. Mind you I know nothing of this author nor have I read her book, I just found the quote interesting.

I don't have much to say, yet, but I thought I'd open up a thread to get a discussion going. I would love to hear some thoughts and get some insight into what I should read about in order to further my understanding.

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Unread 03-07-2020, 10:00 AM   #2
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I think I understand what you are getting at with this. You are looking at the notion of Christians dropping out of the political arena simply because of the belief that Christ will return and reign supreme so why bother.

I do not believe in its entirety that is the way forward for the Christian; however, I think that there is a sense of homelessness that abounds among the more "conservative" Christians. The culture and progressive church continue to push farther away from those that hold to a more traditional belief system. This further pushes them to the edge and the apathetic state. I find myself in this group.

For instance, as has been stated in other threads, I do not trust any of the main political players in the country. I believe that they are all self-serving and are the same coin but simply two different sides. I will continue to vote, but will not hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. I will vote based upon my beliefs even if the person does not have a chance of winning.

I believe the command given to a specific group in Jeremiah 29 is a good thing for us to remember. While in exile, the people were told to work for the welfare of the city in which they live. The issue for most of us is that the term "welfare" or "good" or "prosperity" means different things to do different people, even within the church and that leads to tension.

Honestly, I believe that the increasing divide in politics is driven by the increasing divide within Christianity from those who hold to a more orthodox belief system and those that hold to a more progressive view. Politics is only an overflow of the culture and I believe that culture is an overflow of what is happening within the church. When the church is split to the degree that it is over beliefs that have been held for hundreds or thousands of years then it is no wonder that culture is out of control.
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Unread 03-09-2020, 03:08 PM   #3
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Honestly, I believe that the increasing divide in politics is driven by the increasing divide within Christianity from those who hold to a more orthodox belief system and those that hold to a more progressive view. Politics is only an overflow of the culture and I believe that culture is an overflow of what is happening within the church. When the church is split to the degree that it is over beliefs that have been held for hundreds or thousands of years then it is no wonder that culture is out of control.
Whoa, now.

I think it's important to sort out what exactly you mean by 'progressivism' before going further.

I am an Orthodox Christian. I affirm everything that the Church teaches about human sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and all of the hot-button issues of the day. I am also firmly on the Left on everything except that wherein the Church requires otherwise, because I am convinced that the state has a strong role to play in making the conditions of the market serve the needs of men and women, or rather, creating conditions such that people can reasonably meet their needs - because it is men and women, not markets, who bear the image of God and to whom all human affairs must be subservient. I am also convinced that Mankind has a God-given responsibility not to destroy this world in which God has placed him and upon which he depends for his continued existence. This leads me to, for example, support nonviolent civil disobedience in support of making governments take climate change seriously, and movements in support of our indigenous neighbors whose land we occupy. In this, I am convinced I am well within the social teaching of the Orthodox Church - which, while being extremely conservative on the 'pelvic issues' and those to do with safeguarding human life and dignity, also sees a necessity of that dignity working itself out in economics and business.

So yes. Please do not paint with a broad brush when you talk about 'the Left' or 'progressives' having abandoned traditional Christianity.

I'd argue that it's the 'Protestant work ethic' and hyper-individualistic economics that developed from Calvinism that actually abandoned classical Christian teaching on an economics of solidarity with one's neighbor that runs all throughout the Fathers.
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Unread 03-10-2020, 02:48 PM   #4
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As an example of the kind of authentically Orthodox Christian thinking that prioritizes social solidarity, consider this quote from the Russian political philosopher Vladimir Sergeyivich Solovyov (1853-1900), who was the son of a deacon and a faithful Christian until the end of his life. Solovyov's thought remains influential on the social thought of the Russian church to this day. To Solovyov, the all-encompassing nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ necessitates a society that actively seeks to destroy divisions and isolations between members of society.

"Recognizing the final goal of history as the full realization of the Christian ideal in life by all humanity... we understand the all-sided development of culture as a general and necessary means for reaching that goal, for this culture in its gradual progress destroys all those hostile partitions and exclusive isolations between various parts of humanity and the world and tries to unify all natural and social groups in afamily that is infinitely diverse in make-up but characterized by moral solidarity." - V. S. Solovyov, in "Idols and Ideals" (
Идолы и идеалы).

Where I think Solovyov would have criticized the modern political spectrum is in the lack of 'moral solidarity' we see expressed. On the Right you see people actively campaigning against the kind of moral solidarity that would see people have adequate health care and not be in crippling debt due to their health care and education, and against people being able to take leave from their jobs for being sick or becoming a parent. On the Left, you see the campaigning for the murder of the unborn in the womb as a litmus test for whether a candidate is supportable, no matter how much they may be in solidarity with the needs of every other segment of society*. There is no 'moral solidarity' because there is no more moral common ground. The Right doesn't believe they owe a duty to the poor (I blame this on the above-mentioned Protestant work ethic), and the Left doesn't believe that life in the womb is sacred and that our bodies are gifts of God (and the transgender business, as well as assisted suicide, follows).

Both sides errors flow out of a failure to acknowledge the image of God in Man.

*I mean, by all accounts I'm basically on the radical left - I believe that union-busting activities should be illegal and unionized workplaces should be pretty much mandatory, I believe in nationalizing banks, telecom and other essential utilities and making it illegal to have over a certain (very high) wealth threshold - maybe a hundred million dollars. But because I don't believe that the vast majority of abortions should be legal, the radical left won't have me.

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Unread 03-11-2020, 02:16 PM   #5
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Whoa, now.

I think it's important to sort out what exactly you mean by 'progressivism' before going further.

I am an Orthodox Christian. I affirm everything that the Church teaches about human sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and all of the hot-button issues of the day. I am also firmly on the Left on everything except that wherein the Church requires otherwise, because I am convinced that the state has a strong role to play in making the conditions of the market serve the needs of men and women, or rather, creating conditions such that people can reasonably meet their needs - because it is men and women, not markets, who bear the image of God and to whom all human affairs must be subservient. I am also convinced that Mankind has a God-given responsibility not to destroy this world in which God has placed him and upon which he depends for his continued existence. This leads me to, for example, support nonviolent civil disobedience in support of making governments take climate change seriously, and movements in support of our indigenous neighbors whose land we occupy. In this, I am convinced I am well within the social teaching of the Orthodox Church - which, while being extremely conservative on the 'pelvic issues' and those to do with safeguarding human life and dignity, also sees a necessity of that dignity working itself out in economics and business.

So yes. Please do not paint with a broad brush when you talk about 'the Left' or 'progressives' having abandoned traditional Christianity.

I'd argue that it's the 'Protestant work ethic' and hyper-individualistic economics that developed from Calvinism that actually abandoned classical Christian teaching on an economics of solidarity with one's neighbor that runs all throughout the Fathers.
Excellent insight! Thank you for bringing in some clear definitions and terminology that we can work with.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical church and have recently left both that and working as a full-time missionary to pursue teaching at a public high school. My wife and I are bouncing around trying out mainline churches now. As a politically progressive person it was been interesting seeing where I have fallen out of line with my evangelical brothers on certain subjects to the point where some do not consider me a Christian anymore.

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Originally Posted by bravesfan007 View Post
I think I understand what you are getting at with this. You are looking at the notion of Christians dropping out of the political arena simply because of the belief that Christ will return and reign supreme so why bother.
I don't know if I agree with that. Most of my evangelical brothers and sisters are VERY involved in the political arena but their attitude towards politics in general is always negative and seems to tend towards thinking that the government is always a problem and therefore inherently bad I guess? I honestly don't really get it and that's why I'm starting this thread. I'm genuinely confused. It's like this attitude that one side is bad therefore the other must be just as bad so let's just throw our hands up in the air and give up and let the really bad ones have their way?

Sorry if my thoughts aren't super coherent. I've been battling the flu for the past week and I'm bogged down in grading late assignments from all my sick students. I'm trying to keep the thread alive, though.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:05 AM   #6
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I am hesitantly responding.

My rejection of the American political system is only partly due to my Christian faith. Even if I was not a believer I would have absolutely no confidence in our government. It is corrupt and broken and I just don't see that changing. There is a palpable divide among the citizens of this nation. I believe it was amplified and encouraged by many. I honestly do not see a way to bridge the gap now. The chasm between the Left and the Right seems to grow with every day. The 2016 Election gave us two candidates who were extremely unlikable and untrustworthy. If ever there had been a time when people had to choose between the "lesser of two evils" it was then. Here we are four years later and the choice isn't any better.

Here's where my faith comes in. First of all, I do not hold to a dispensational millenial view so I am not anticipating the rapture, the tribulation, or a 1,000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem. I know some on the extreme right have abandoned politics because they hold this view. That's not me. I have abandoned it because I can't support either side in good conscience. There have been some on the left who proposed social policies that I would endorse. However, every single one of them support the murder of unborn children and I will not vote for them. There are those on the right who I agree with on many issues but they seem to have no problem bombing people to oblivion so I will not vote for them either. There is no side for me. I have been accused of being a single issue voter and I accept that.

Given that I can't believe in, trust, or support either party; I have resigned myself to the fact that this nation is broken. I don't know that it has ever been THAT healthy. After all, we built it on the backs of slaves and the genocide of the Native Americans. I never bought into the "Make America Great Again" mantra because I don't think it was ever that great to begin with. I will submit to the ruling authorities (Romans 13) regardless of who they are. I will obey the laws of the land until they force me to disobey God. Until then, I will attempt to live as much like Christ as I can. I will look for ways to make a difference in the lives of those I come in contact with.

What are the ramifications of my position? Well, I don't violate my personal convictions and I am focused on the kingdom of heaven first and foremost. As a believer, I do feel that is my greatest responsibility. I do pay my taxes and do the things required of me by my government. I "render to Caesar what is Caesar's" and all that. I'm not sure that I am required to do any more than that. Christians have been living out their faith in the culture long before the United States came into being and if the Lord tarries, they will continue to do so. As frightening as it may seem, I am not terribly worried about the survival of this nation. Jesus will remain on His throne and those of us still alive will hopefully continue to worship Him regardless. Choosing not to vote or to not participate in a worldly system of government doesn't negate my faith or make me a bad person. People can think what they want.

Honestly, I'm more concerned about the ramifications on Christianity by those who are politically active no matter which side they are on.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 02:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Leboman View Post
I am hesitantly responding.

My rejection of the American political system is only partly due to my Christian faith. Even if I was not a believer I would have absolutely no confidence in our government. It is corrupt and broken and I just don't see that changing. There is a palpable divide among the citizens of this nation. I believe it was amplified and encouraged by many. I honestly do not see a way to bridge the gap now. The chasm between the Left and the Right seems to grow with every day. The 2016 Election gave us two candidates who were extremely unlikable and untrustworthy. If ever there had been a time when people had to choose between the "lesser of two evils" it was then. Here we are four years later and the choice isn't any better.
I would say I agree with your survey of the nation as a whole, but my faith leads me to see things through a different lens - that, while our government is corrupt and broken, it is ultimately a created "being" that is subject to the redeeming nature of Christ. Nothing is beyond the reach of God and His redemptive plan; that includes our government. My faith forces me to look for elements that reflect the redemptive nature of God and to amplify those in public life.

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Here's where my faith comes in. First of all, I do not hold to a dispensational millenial view so I am not anticipating the rapture, the tribulation, or a 1,000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem. I know some on the extreme right have abandoned politics because they hold this view. That's not me. I have abandoned it because I can't support either side in good conscience. There have been some on the left who proposed social policies that I would endorse. However, every single one of them support the murder of unborn children and I will not vote for them. There are those on the right who I agree with on many issues but they seem to have no problem bombing people to oblivion so I will not vote for them either. There is no side for me. I have been accused of being a single issue voter and I accept that.
I don't hold those views at all anymore either. I grew up in a church that had a pastor that set dates for the return of Christ multiple times. Hence my complicated relationship with the Church! I want so much to stay within the fold of the faith but I am very critical of institutions that wield power without respecting their responsibility to wield that power with due diligence.

I will admit that I struggle with the intricacies of voting for either major political party and I have been a registered Independent until this year when I re-registered as a Democrat. However, I would say that God gave us the brain power to parse the good from the bad and to make educated decisions about complex issues. Paul, in fact, was extremely well versed in his political discourse and used that to his advantage on numerous occasions to push forth his faith!

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Given that I can't believe in, trust, or support either party; I have resigned myself to the fact that this nation is broken. I don't know that it has ever been THAT healthy. After all, we built it on the backs of slaves and the genocide of the Native Americans. I never bought into the "Make America Great Again" mantra because I don't think it was ever that great to begin with. I will submit to the ruling authorities (Romans 13) regardless of who they are. I will obey the laws of the land until they force me to disobey God. Until then, I will attempt to live as much like Christ as I can. I will look for ways to make a difference in the lives of those I come in contact with.
And here again is where we part ways. Paul spoke about our battle being against principalities and the powers of this world. I will be the first to admit that I am a HUGE fan of Walter Wink and William Stringfellow and those guys opened my eyes to how that battle should unfold through fighting injustices and evils within systems. I realize there is bountiful literature about Christian life played out in public and in private but I tend to be one to gravitate towards those that challenge believers to be aware of political avenues that bring justice and healing to this world and open up space for ministry to occur.

In conjunction with this I am often appalled by the apparent hijacking of "Christianity" by a cabal of evil men with evil intentions. American civic faith, in my honest opinion, is an atheistic and parasitic tool used to trick and deceive. I think we would agree with one another about how much it makes us want to puke when we hear people on either side try to use Christianity as a guise to push forth anti-Christian ideals.

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What are the ramifications of my position? Well, I don't violate my personal convictions and I am focused on the kingdom of heaven first and foremost. As a believer, I do feel that is my greatest responsibility. I do pay my taxes and do the things required of me by my government. I "render to Caesar what is Caesar's" and all that. I'm not sure that I am required to do any more than that. Christians have been living out their faith in the culture long before the United States came into being and if the Lord tarries, they will continue to do so. As frightening as it may seem, I am not terribly worried about the survival of this nation. Jesus will remain on His throne and those of us still alive will hopefully continue to worship Him regardless. Choosing not to vote or to not participate in a worldly system of government doesn't negate my faith or make me a bad person. People can think what they want.

Honestly, I'm more concerned about the ramifications on Christianity by those who are politically active no matter which side they are on.
I would agree with you on some of this - mainly that the Church as far outlived most nation states and that it has a role to be a guide post, a light house, or a moor of sorts for nation states to look to as times and societies change. I would say the the Church has been derelict in its duty more often than not. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. arise and give agency back to the church and those are the ones we should look to and listen to. However, our battle is a tough one, and often times the powers and principalities play dirty and silence voices like his. Again, it is the Christian's duty to be aware and to be vigilant in seeking out ways to be an agent of change in the context in which they live.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 02:57 PM   #8
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I would say I agree with your survey of the nation as a whole, but my faith leads me to see things through a different lens - that, while our government is corrupt and broken, it is ultimately a created "being" that is subject to the redeeming nature of Christ. Nothing is beyond the reach of God and His redemptive plan; that includes our government. My faith forces me to look for elements that reflect the redemptive nature of God and to amplify those in public life.
I respect your view even though I do not hold it myself. I see all governments as "kingdoms of the sword" whereas I am supposed to be part of the kingdom of God (heaven). I am in this world but not part of it. I don't hold others to my personal convictions concerning this.

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I don't hold those views at all anymore either. I grew up in a church that had a pastor that set dates for the return of Christ multiple times. Hence my complicated relationship with the Church! I want so much to stay within the fold of the faith but I am very critical of institutions that wield power without respecting their responsibility to wield that power with due diligence.
As someone who has been "in" church his entire life (I'll be 50 this year) I have issues with the church as well...especially the one here in America.


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I will admit that I struggle with the intricacies of voting for either major political party and I have been a registered Independent until this year when I re-registered as a Democrat. However, I would say that God gave us the brain power to parse the good from the bad and to make educated decisions about complex issues. Paul, in fact, was extremely well versed in his political discourse and used that to his advantage on numerous occasions to push forth his faith!

I believe I am using my brain power. When both parties violate my personal convictions, I cannot in good conscience support either even though both have policies I agree with. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. Once again, this is my personal conviction and I do not hold others to it. The only time it really becomes an issue is when people (on both sides) seem to be shaming me into political activity. Honestly, that pisses me off. And I have confessed, I do have some issues I do not budge on. Abortion is one of them and I make no apologies.

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And here again is where we part ways. Paul spoke about our battle being against principalities and the powers of this world. I will be the first to admit that I am a HUGE fan of Walter Wink and William Stringfellow and those guys opened my eyes to how that battle should unfold through fighting injustices and evils within systems. I realize there is bountiful literature about Christian life played out in public and in private but I tend to be one to gravitate towards those that challenge believers to be aware of political avenues that bring justice and healing to this world and open up space for ministry to occur.
Apparently we differ in our interpretation of Ephesians 6. Paul explicitly states that our enemies are not flesh and blood. I understand these rulers, authorities, and powers to be spiritual in nature. I do believe they are involved in and affect the physical rulers of this planet as well. I'm not saying all politicians are evil or possessed by Satan. However, they are part of an earthly system that is not designed to bring glory or honor to God. God is sovereign and He allows it but that doesn't mean it has His stamp of approval. He used pagan nations all throughout the Old Testament. I believe He is doing the same with the United States (as well as every other nation) today. Once again, I do not feel my best efforts at encountering injustice are tied up in the political machine. I believe I should be making a difference with those in my real life. I honestly believe that most (if not all) Christians in America are spoiled because we have been blessed by our freedoms. I don't see some of these conflicts among believers in countries where there is no religious freedom and/or they have no political voice. I sometimes wonder if we would be better off as the Church is we were to lose ours. If nothing else, it would empty the pews of fake Christians.


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In conjunction with this I am often appalled by the apparent hijacking of "Christianity" by a cabal of evil men with evil intentions. American civic faith, in my honest opinion, is an atheistic and parasitic tool used to trick and deceive. I think we would agree with one another about how much it makes us want to puke when we hear people on either side try to use Christianity as a guise to push forth anti-Christian ideals.
I despise civic religion and those who attempt to judge my faith based upon my patriotism. I think the American Dream is one of the worst enemies of the Cross.

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I would agree with you on some of this - mainly that the Church as far outlived most nation states and that it has a role to be a guide post, a light house, or a moor of sorts for nation states to look to as times and societies change. I would say the the Church has been derelict in its duty more often than not. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. arise and give agency back to the church and those are the ones we should look to and listen to. However, our battle is a tough one, and often times the powers and principalities play dirty and silence voices like his. Again, it is the Christian's duty to be aware and to be vigilant in seeking out ways to be an agent of change in the context in which they live.
My duty is to love God and to love others. I do believe I can accomplish that without being politically active. The fact that we are even having this conversation shows that politics is causing division among the Body. I believe both sides are guilty. I do not judge those who choose to be involved in the machinations of government. I honestly don't. I only ask for the same respect.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:00 PM   #9
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I believe I am using my brain power. When both parties violate my personal convictions, I cannot in good conscience support either even though both have policies I agree with. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils. Once again, this is my personal conviction and I do not hold others to it. The only time it really becomes an issue is when people (on both sides) seem to be shaming me into political activity. Honestly, that pisses me off. And I have confessed, I do have some issues I do not budge on. Abortion is one of them and I make no apologies.
Dude, I'm just as pro-life as you, I just do the calculus differently.

What does it profit us if we outlaw abortion, but make society so profoundly cruel in myriad other ways that it makes women either want to leave the country or seek back-alley abortions so as not to raise their children in this ____ed up country you've basically enabled by tacitly supporting Trump?

Instead, you should support organizations like DFLA (Democrats for Life America). Swell the ranks of the anti-Trump crowd with pro-lifers so that they can no longer ignore you.

I mean, unless you just really want to see public policy wherein people get screwed.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:03 PM   #10
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Dude, I'm just as pro-life as you, I just do the calculus differently.

What does it profit us if we outlaw abortion, but make society so profoundly cruel in myriad other ways that it makes women either want to leave the country or seek back-alley abortions so as not to raise their children in this ____ed up country you've basically enabled by tacitly supporting Trump?

Instead, you should support organizations like DFLA (Democrats for Life America). Swell the ranks of the anti-Trump crowd with pro-lifers so that they can no longer ignore you.

I mean, unless you just really want to see public policy wherein people get screwed.
I don't judge you for your opinion. I gladly ask you for the same courtesy. I am going to say this once more. I do not support Trump. I never will. Stop making assumptions. My refusal to support the Democrats does not equal supporting Republicans. I think I have made that pretty clear.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:06 PM   #11
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I don't judge you for your opinion. I gladly ask you for the same courtesy.
I'm not judging you. I'm asking you if you want to see people get screwed by wicked policy. Because that's what's happening.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:09 PM   #12
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My refusal to support the Democrats dies not equal supporting Republicans. I think I have made that pretty clear.
You've asserted this, but without dealing with the fact that in a two-party system, a refusal to support one when one is the lesser of two evils means tacit support for the greater evil.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Homer Simpson View Post
I'm not judging you. I'm asking you if you want to see people get screwed by wicked policy. Because that's what's happening.
If you think the Democrats are any better then there's really nothing I can say to you. I am not going to argue with you up here.
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Unread 03-14-2020, 10:12 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Homer Simpson View Post
You've asserted this, but without dealing with the fact that in a two-party system, a refusal to support one when one is the lesser of two evils means tacit support for the greater evil.
I don't even believe there are two parties. It's an illusion. Two sides of the same coin and both sides screw the poor. I am done with this. You can keep it up if you choose and you can keep leaving the negative UCs but I'm not playing along.
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Last edited by Leboman; 03-14-2020 at 10:24 PM.
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Unread 03-15-2020, 12:06 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Leboman View Post
I don't even believe there are two parties. It's an illusion. Two sides of the same coin and both sides screw the poor. I am done with this. You can keep it up if you choose and you can keep leaving the negative UCs but I'm not playing along.
To an extent, I agree - both parties are manifestations of neoliberal capitalism. Where they disagree are in the best ways to implement neoliberal capitalism.

But there are real, consequential policy differences between the two, and they matter. You've repeatedly engaged in this both-sidesism without providing any proof to back up your claims.

Back up your claims. Otherwise all you are doing is making assertions. You're being dishonest. Please provide evidence of how the net effects of the Republican party's actions and failure to act hurt people in the same way and to the same degree as those of the Democratic party.

The Democratic party appears to be in the pocket of SuperPACS and the like, this is true. But there is a guy currently not taking any money from SuperPACS, who is campaigning on a platform of medicare for all, which no Republican ever would. It is simply not the case that 'both sides are just as bad' - one side is proposing policy that would demonstrably help less afluent people, and the other side is demonstrably not doing so.

Please stop being dishonest.
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